It wasn’t Mahler Symphony No. 1, it was a work by Rachel Leach written for this particular kind of event, but to make those kinds of comparisons is to miss the point entirely. To go from the event in London on Monday to hearing the new national extra-young youth orchestra of Venezuela on Friday was to jump 35 years into the future. Music for open strings has been replaced by full orchestra works of massive challenge and proportion. 30 children have grown into over 300,000, and 3 sites have grown into over 200.
I wish British politicians/policy-makers could have seen the rehearsal on Friday night in Caracas. In the era of emergency budgets and cuts to the arts, the evening was a shining example of what could be, if they looked beyond their brief, although admittedly generous, funding window and made a long-term commitment to the youth of their nation. I would wager that what has been accomplished in Venezuela in 35 years of blood, sweat and tears could be done in 20 in Great Britain, maybe even 15 – there are just so many more pre-existing resources that could be mobilized.
As I bring my account of the London adventure to a close, I have to make a special mention of the London Philharmonic Orchestra. They are a wonderful example of the role a major orchestra can play in creating connections and facilitating opportunities for partner organizations. The education personnel, Matthew Todd and Isobel Timms, and the principal second violin, Clare Duckworth, are part of a small group of individuals leading industry change from the inside out. Side-by-side concerts are relatively common these days, but a side-by-side concert with a group of 9 year-olds who only play open strings is nothing short of remarkable. Kudos to them for bringing IHL to the stage of Royal Festival Hall so that these kids’ peers could hear them perform.